Rodents perceive pheromones via vomeronasal receptors encoded by highly evolutionarily dynamic Vr and Fpr gene superfamilies. We report here that high numbers of V1r pseudogenes are scattered in mammalian genomes, contrasting with the clustered organization of functional V1r and Fpr genes. We also found that V1r pseudogenes are more likely to be expressed when located in a functional V1r gene cluster than when isolated. To explore the potential regulatory role played by the association of functional vomeronasal receptor genes with their clusters, we dissociated the mouse from its native cluster via transgenesis. Singular and specific transgenic transcription was observed in young vomeronasal neurons but was only transient. Our study of natural and artificial dispersed gene duplications uncovers the existence of transcription-stabilizing elements not coupled to vomeronasal gene units but rather associated with vomeronasal gene clusters and thus explains the evolutionary conserved clustered organization of functional vomeronasal genes.
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